Press freedom in Italy continues to be threatened by organised crime, particularly in the south of the country, as well as by various extremist or protest groups that use violence, which have seen a significant increase throughout the pandemic.
The Italian media landscape is well developed and has a wide range of media outlets guaranteeing a real diversity of opinions. The broadcast sector includes several public TV channels (such as Rai 1) and public radio stations, as well as many privately-owned TV and radio stations. The same diversity characterises the print media, which include nearly 20 dailies with a print run of more than 20,000 (such as Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica), about 50 weeklies with a sizable circulation (such as L'Espresso and Famiglia Cristiana), as well as many magazines and a range of news websites.
For the most part, Italian journalists enjoy a climate of freedom. But they sometimes give in to the temptation to censor themselves, either to conform to their news organisation’s editorial line, or to avoid a defamation suit or other form of legal action, or out of fear of reprisals by extremist groups or organised crime.
A degree of legislative paralysis is holding back the adoption of various bills that have been proposed to preserve and even improve journalistic freedom. This partly explains the limitations that some reporters encounter in their work. Defamation has yet to be decriminalised, and the pandemic has made it more complex and laborious for national media to gain access to state-held data.
As a result of the economic crisis, the media as a whole are increasingly dependent on advertising revenue and any state subsidies, while the print media are also facing a gradual decline in sales. The result is a growing precariousness that dangerously undermines journalism, its energy and autonomy.
The polarisation of Italian society during the Covid-19 pandemic has affected journalists, who have been subjected to both verbal and physical attacks during protests against measures taken by the authorities to combat the pandemic.
Journalists who investigate organised crime and corruption are systematically threatened and sometimes subjected to physical violence, including arson attacks on their cars or homes. Online intimidation campaigns are orchestrated to “punish” journalists who have the courage to explore such sensitive issues as collusion between mafia families and local politicians. Twenty journalists are currently receiving round-the-clock police protection because they have been subjected to intimidation, death threats or attacks.